Women’s leadership roles evolve within the Church

Courtesy of LONG HOLLOW CREATIVE  Evangelist, author and Bible teacher Beth Moore is one of many strong female figures among Christians in the U.S.
Evangelist, author and Bible teacher Beth Moore is one of many strong female figures among Christians in the U.S.

The U.S. has doubled its number over the past ten years, according to the Barna Pastor Poll.

Denominations like Roman Catholics, Southern Baptist and the Orthodox Church in America do not allow women to lead a congregation.

Melissa Michael, professor of math education in John Brown University explained that throughout the Bible women have had very interesting roles, but in the Old Testament there are multiple examples of women being portrayed as bad.

“There are times when women are not put in the best light and that goes all the way back with Eve,” Michael said.

According to the Barna study, about three out of 10 church going women say they are resigned to low expectations in the church. One-fifth feel under-utilized and one-sixth said their opportunities in the church were limited by their gender.

“There are several Christian denominations that exclude women from leadership type roles,” Michael said.

“Addressing women’s issues is one of the things that splits churches.”

“The Bible is hard to interpret for current situations like women’s rights,” senior Shelby Lawson said.

“A lot of people jump into the conclusions and try to interpret that women are powerless or worthless,” Lawson said.

“God is always clear that women are just as valuable as men, despite the cultural norms of that time period that degraded women,” junior Kelsey Bredthauer said. “I think it makes it clear that women are to be treated equally as men; however, the Bible also makes clear there are distinct roles for men and women.”

70 million Americans are adult women who attend a church. 72 percent say they have influence in the church according to the Barna study.

Tracy Balzer, director of Christian formation, explained that women did not have as much authority in the Old Testament, but were still valued in spiritual leadership. She explained that the culture was paternalistic and male-dominated, but Deborah is an example of appointed leadership in the judges.

“Women, while not having the same level of leadership and authority, certainly played significant roles in the spiritual history,” Balzer explained.

Balzer also said that Paul’s words about women overshadow the examples that we have throughout the New Testament of strong spiritual women.

“In recent generations, there has been a lot more openness to recognizing that women have an important role to play and that women are equal to men in every way,” Balzer said.

“I have followed many godly men through my life but I don’t believe its right to keep gifted women from serving in the ways that God has called them to serve.”

Balzer said it is her 20th year in JBU. When she came here she was told that the University was open to women having leadership roles, but that she might have a pushback from other people. When she was hired she was the only woman in the Bible department. Balzer has seen changes since then and is hoping more women will be hired.

“What we see here in JBU is a real reflection of our interdenominational makeup,” Balzer said.